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Career spotlight: senior R&D group leader
Through our series of blogs highlighting people who have found careers at Takara Bio, we hope to show you what it's like to be a team member contributing to the advancement of "good science." We perform and enable good science, and this mission to provide top-quality products and services informs everything we do.
Here, we’ve interviewed Dr. Yanli Liu, a Senior R&D Group Leader for NGS-Automation. The NGS-Automation group develops best-in-class NGS reagents and assays on Takara Bio’s automated single-cell systems. As a Senior R&D Group Leader, Dr. Liu supports and leads multiple key R&D projects including automated NGS technology and assay development, system integration and product line support . She oversees everything from planning, execution, monitoring, and closing projects to researching and understanding the latest technological advances.
I enjoy building products to empower scientists and clinicians. My passion lies in developing innovative products to address customers’ unmet needs and to advance scientific discoveries."
How long have you been with Takara Bio and what drew you to work here?
I joined Takara Bio in December of 2020 (I’ve been with the company a little less than a year). I joined the company because Takara has a long history of launching new and innovative molecular products. I am passionate about building products, and I’d like to continue developing myself into a thought leader and people person in the emerging field of single-cell analysis. Takara Bio gives me the opportunity to do exactly that. I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity!
Tell us about your career journey and how it helped you for your current role.
Upon the completion of my PhD in chemistry, I took on several R&D roles with academic and government labs and later biotech and medical companies. The fields expand from microfluidics to immunology, molecular biology, and hematology. I have years of experience in developing both research and clinical products, from reagents to instrumentation systems. I also spent a year or so in operations where I learned what takes to consistently make quality products. In addition, I did a couple of marketing gigs throughout the years, where I supported and led marketing projects in product management and customer engagement to better understand business, customers, and the markets that we serve. These diverse experience gives me different perspectives and allows me to grow faster as a person and as a professional.
It sounds like you have had so many great and varied experiences leading to this role. What makes this role specifically rewarding?
It is extremely rewarding to develop a product from concept to launch and see how your products positively impact customers’ research and enable them to make scientific discoveries and clinical diagnoses with higher efficiency and accuracy.
As a passionate product builder, which Takara Bio product are you currently most excited about?
One of the products that I am super excited about is the SMART-Seq Pro application kit that is launching in October 2021. The SMART-Seq Pro protocol enables Illumina sequencing and full-length transcriptome analysis of single cells isolated on the ICELL8 cx Single-Cell System. This is by far the most sensitive single-cell assay on our automated platform, which allows scientists to better catalogue rare cell types, including from primary cells with low mRNA input. More importantly, this new full-length mRNA-seq protocol together with our own Cogent bioinformatics pipeline empowers the users to detect fusions, splice variant/isoforms, and mutations with better resolution than any other single-cell tools available on the market.
Our team is very excited about this upcoming release and I believe this will help Takara Bio to solidify our single-cell analysis capability in the field. I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the talented scientists, engineers, bioinformaticians and marketers who have contributed to the success of the product over the years.
You mention the excellent team that has supported the SMART-Seq Pro kit—how do you interact with your team and other teams?
Takara Bio has a very open and collaborative culture, and everyone is willing to support each other like a family. It is truly my privilege to interact with such an amazing and collaborative team. I do one-on-one meetings with individual staff as well as regular group meetings and project meetings so that everyone gets to share ideas and contribute to multiple dimensions. We strive to build a more cohesive team and improve collaborations between departments.
You have held several different types of roles in biotech—what advice do you have for someone looking for a career in R&D?
Getting a job doesn’t happen overnight. You are going to have to put in lots of effort over a long period of time. Have a plan and find someone who can guide you through the process if possible. If you are at the bachelor’s level, research experience makes a difference—show that you can do the job independently. When interviewing, do your homework and know about the company you are interviewing at. Always be proactive and have a growth mindset.
Finally, what do you like to do when you are not working?
I love to spend time with my family, whether it’s traveling, watching movies, or just going to a restaurant. I just enjoy being with them! I’m a marathon runner, and I enjoying distance running in the mornings.
Thank you for sharing your passion with us, Yanli!
Stay tuned for more career spotlights.
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Learn more about SMART-Seq Pro
This talk introduces Takara Bio's SMART-Seq Pro chemistry, an automated solution with superior sensitivity and power to detect biological events deep within the transcriptome.
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